Another World: Losing Our Children to Islamic State
National Theatre (Temporary Space)
Reviewed on Monday 25th April 2016
You can’t turn the news on without seeing footage from some extremist group in the Middle East. Over the past few years, the rise in terrorist organisations such as ISIS, has been the hot topic of conversation. Who are these people? And how do they seduce British teenagers into joining their revolution? Playwright Gillian Slovo interviewed a number of people, from parents of those new recruits, to school children, lawyers and reverends, and the results is 95 minutes of harrowing and eye-opening theatre.
Director Nicolas Kent has done a fantastic job of keeping the pace moving - it can be tiresome to essential listen to a number of monologues one after the other - by splicing each speech across the entire piece, it keeps things fresh, and offers up new perspectives at every turn.
There’s some believable, sublte work from Farshid Rokey, Ronak Patani, Zara Azam and Lara Sawalha voicing the thoughts of teenage students who attend a school in Tower Hamlets, near to where three schoolgirls were fully radicalised by ISIS and fled to Turkey last year. They speak of the casual racism they face every day, from being wearing of mentioning anything to do with explosions in public, to contemplating whether wearing a hijab or a skirt out of choice will ever look that way to an outsiders eye. As Patini says, “We are just the same as you. We too are afraid when we see those attacks."
The really harrowing and emotive scenes come from Nathalie Armin, Sirine Saba and Penny Layden as three grieving mothers from Brussells who have all lost their children to the Islamic State. These moments are particularly moving, as with verbatim theatre you know that each and every one of these devastating sentences are true. To hear the pain and suffering that each of these women has gone through, and to see how their lives have been turned upside down by the actions of their children being radicalised is heart breaking. There is fine, strong and beautiful work from these three actresses - so much so, we begin to see them as those women from Belgium - in particular during Layden’s final speech, which bought many of the surrounding audience to tears.
Another World is exactly the type of theatre we want from the National; thought provoking, powerful and shining a light on a subject that so many of us misunderstand, and with this production marking the end of the Temporary Space, we hope that exciting, important new work such as this isn’t lost in the National’s usual programme or revivals.
As one of the interviewees says, ‘terrorism is now as necessary an evil as a car crash’. It’s not going away, we just need to learn how to deal with it.
Reviewed by Oliver Dowdeswell
Another World runs at the National Theatre, Temporary Space until 7th May 2016.
Please visit www.nationaltheatre.org.uk for further information and tickets.